Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24) Have you ever gone through a time in your life where you felt that all your efforts were in vain? No matter what you tried to do or say, nothing seemed to be effective. You may be going through a time like this right now. You may see some loved one going astray and you try everything you can think of to help turn them around but nothing you try seems to make a difference. You may be struggling at work and you put in extra hours to show management that you are conscientious and are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done - but your efforts go unnoticed. You might be trying to reestablish a friendship that has been jeopardized by a disagreement of some kind, but no matter how much you try, your friend does not seem to be willing to 'come to terms'. I'm sure there are many other instances that could be listed, but the point is, we can feel that we are trying to do the right things, but keep getting the wrong, or no results. Apparently Paul experienced some of the same things we do and he compared his efforts to running a race. Paul knew that to win a race, dedicated training was required. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Corinthians 9:25) Paul discovered the route to success. He knew the importance of staying focused on the Lord. If he could do that, then regardless of the earthly results of his efforts, his goal to receive a lasting crown from the Lord would be successful. Paul wanted to do the right thing, but even if his efforts were ineffective, he would find success in achieving his goal of receiving the 'crown of life'. Paul was concerned about how others would be impacted by the things he said and did, but he was more concerned about how the Lord perceived his efforts. He wanted the Lord to know that everything he did was sincere and heartfelt. Paul's goal was to please the Lord and as result, he did not feel that the success or failure of his efforts was based on the response of others in this world. He had a well-defined goal and that was his target for measuring success. Paul was not floundering around with wasted efforts. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. (1 Corinthians 9:26) Paul did not want to miss out on his ultimate goal of receiving 'a crown that will last forever', so he pounded himself into submission to the Lord. In other words, he conditioned himself for success. He made the necessary changes and sacrifices to qualify himself for the prize. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:27) At the end of the race of life, Paul wanted to experience the Lord raising his hand in victory and saying, "Well done My good and faithful servant!" He was no different than the rest of us. He wanted to see positive results from his efforts here on earth. But he was also wise enough to know that he had no control of others; he could only control himself, and he chose to do this through submission and servanthood to the Lord. Paul's goal was to please the Lord first and hopefully to succeed in his efforts with others as well. We can see that Paul's approach for success was to be a servant to God, and to have faith that the Lord would enhance his efforts with others. Paul was convinced that his mission was to share the good news with others and to trust the Lord to water the seeds he was planting. This meant that there were times when he would not see the results of his efforts. Paul may have planted the seeds in one area and moved to another city or region before the Lord added water to what he had planted. What is your mission? Are you bogged down with disappointment in how others respond to your efforts? Are you 'running aimlessly or 'boxing the air' in your efforts to seek earthly results? What goal have you set for pleasing the Lord? I believe that first and foremost, the Lord wants us to show others that our faith in Him is real. Our faith is much more than something to be talked about, it should be a living faith that is evident for all to see. Sometimes we can become a little 'preachy' to others, but they see no evidence in our lives that God is real to us. Through the years I have heard others say that someone else needs to be in church, but they are not going themselves. Satan can convince us to take the "Do as I say" approach and ignore the "Do as I do" example. Paul says that our number one goal is to please the Lord and to show Him our faith is sincere. Pray, "Heavenly Father, I don't want to go through life aimlessly seeking worldly success. Help me to be more like Paul with a desire to please You as my number one goal. Teach me to beat myself into submission so that I can become Your slave. I realize this means that I need to make significant changes in my life and my priorities in order to receive the crown that lasts forever. Help me to show my faith to others by how I live instead of focusing on what I say. Guide me in using my spiritual gifts to point others to You. Prevent me from becoming discouraged by negative results of my efforts, but teach me to be encouraged by knowing that I am achieving success when I am pleasing You."